By Steve Sherack
BALTIMORE, MD – While the top 3-year-olds in the nation are showcased in rapid-fire succession during a special 15-minute training window in the mornings leading up to the GI Kentucky Derby and Oaks at Churchill Downs, it is a much different scene at Pimlico ahead of the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Housed in a pair of neighboring 'Stakes Barns' on an isolated section of the backstretch at Old Hilltop, the GI Preakness S. runners as well as the weekend's other top horses can pop out to train at any given moment from when the track opens with the rising sun at 5:30 a.m.–just as the Derby winner Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) has done in style all week–or as late as 9:00 a.m., following the track's renovation break.
With no shortage of press on hand, including plenty of Baltimore's local television stations, lined up waiting to see who may emerge from the shedrow next sporting a yellow Preakness saddle towel, it always makes for a unique experience each year as they head out onto the wood chip path on Pimlico's backstretch leading out to the main track.
Watching fans enjoy a behind-the-scenes view of the backstretch during the popular and free 'Sunrise at Old Hilltop' tours and get a chance to witness a close-up look at the Preakness horses and also interact with legends like Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, is all part of what makes spending a morning at Pimlico on Preakness week such an enjoyable and memorable experience.
In a race billed as a showdown, and rightfully so, between the Derby winner and last year's champion 2-year-old colt Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile), can a longshot possibly sneak into the mix at all? Hence (Street Boss), an ultra-impressive winner of the GIII Sunland Derby, may be the one to take a second look at. The handsome chestnut never seemed to get a hold of the sloppy footing on Derby day and could only manage a well-beaten 11th at 15-1. A talking horse all week on the backstretch leading up to the Run for the Roses, let's see what he can do on a fast track Saturday.
'The People's Party'…
After three straight days of scorching heat and humidity, cloudy skies and cooler temperatures are forecasted for Saturday's 142nd Preakness. Country star Sam Hunt will be the headliner during the Budweiser InfieldFest with a performance between 4:30-6:00 p.m. Grammy and Billboard award-winning electronic music artist Zedd will also perform earlier in the afternoon as well.
• Largest Winning Margin: Smarty Jones (2004), 11 1/2 lengths
• Smallest Winning Margin: Nose (6)
• Fastest Time: Secretariat (1973), 1:53
• Largest Field: 18 (1928)
• Smallest Field: 2 (1883, 1884, 1889)
• Most Wins by an Owner: Calumet Farm (8)
• Most Wins by a Trainer: Robert Wyndham Walden (7)
• Most Wins by a Jockey: Eddie Arcaro (6)
• Distance: 1 3/16 miles since 1925